I’ve been trying to get myself back into reading for a while. I’ve been listening to audio books a lot over the past few years but I definitely get more from actually sitting down and reading a book. When I listen to audio books it’s kind of like listing to a sitcom you used to watch while you work. It’s pleasant background noise and occasionally you glean some bit of info you like but because you’re usually focused elsewhere you miss a lot of the content.
Sitting down and making myself read a book again is better for me because I have to actually read the words if I want to absorb them. So I’ve been downloading the books I listen to a lot (or have read in the past) to the various digital reading apps on my phone and tablet and have begun rereading them. I haven’t put a lot of effort into reading books I haven’t come across yet. I do have some downloaded that I need to get to soon. But a lot of my reading is focused on reviewing lessons that would be pertinent to my current place in life and less about looking for new data to change my situation.
The Richest Man in Babylon
So there are a handful of books that I go to for those purposes. The first is called The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clauson. It’s around a century old now and was written in a very biblical way (thy’s and thouest’s galore.) but the underlying principles it presents are generally timeless and I occasionally feel a need to refresh my memory of them.
It’s basically a parable about a few figures from ancient Babylon who both share their knowledge about managing and growing one’s wealth as well as examples of when people both followed and violated the guidelines to achieving it that were presented.
A few of these ideas are to save 10% of everything you earn and to get used to living off the 90% remaining so that you can build up a nest-egg that you then use to invest and build revenue streams that earn independent of your own ability to do so. Another idea is having and sticking to a budget to allow yourself to more easily do the first one. Another is to protect your savings by only entrusting it to experts in the fields you’re considering investing. For instance it gave the example of loaning the savings to a brick maker who planned to buy jewels on his travels so he and the saver could make a great profit from it. The issue there being the people who sold him the jewels tricked him and sold him pretty glass. Being an expert in brick making didn’t convey over to the jewelry craft and the lack of expertise led to the loss of the principle investment.
It also talks about owning property and how one might go about it. I’ve been revisiting this book mainly for this reason. The current inflationary environment we find ourselves in has been rather worrying to me and I’m looking for wisdom around this idea of wealth and savings for the purpose of one day owning my own house/land for myself and my children.
The Laws of Human Nature
Robert Greene is an amazing author who has written many books about the dynamic relationships between humans. His Laws of Human Nature book has been invaluable to me personally. Helping me understand they way people act and how my past experiences might be understood and learned from to improve my future.
One of his laws discusses the way humans act in groups (almost unconsciously becoming another person when in that dynamic) and how you can both be a better part of a group but also how to remain an individual so as to not lose control of your life trying to impress others and fit in.
Another law talks about the dangers of getting enmeshed with people who constantly create problems and how they can sap years of your life from you from the stresses they induce and the turmoil they can bring not just to you but to the friends and family they invariably spread out to by association with you.
Robert tends to write massive tomes, many hundreds of pages thick filled with examples of the way the world actually is and how being aware of it can help you, while being unaware or ignoring the various principles may hurt you in the long term. I do need to reread the Laws of Human Nature, as it’s been around a year since I last did. But his other books, like The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of War are also very important to read and be aware of, as they’re not relics of the past but strategies businesses and politicians currently engage in, whether consciously or unconsciously, and not being aware of them will cause you to continually fall victim to them.
Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived the holocaust of the Second World War. In his time being moved between concentration camps and dealing with the horrors of those situations, the dehumanizing of himself and his peers by his captors and the deaths of much of his family, he was able to use his background of his career to make sense of what he was going through and find purpose and reason to survive. His book Man’s Search for Meaning touches loosely on the experiences of his time in the camps, as he wanted to focus on the learnings and ways people could use those learnings to improve their own lives rather than retell the horrors he went through, stating there were already plenty of books that did so.
Personally I’ve been pushed towards this book a few times by various therapists attempting to help me find some way or paradigm through which I could see my life and the issues I’ve found myself going through over the years. Like everyone else on this planet I’ve experienced various forms of loss and trauma and having read this book has helped me both appreciate the life I have compared to that of those who’ve gone through worse, (which isn’t really the point of the book) and to also find purpose and meaning and reasons to continue on along my path. Things like my children and making sure they grow into healthy and fulfilled individuals as well as taking the things I’ve learned and finding ways to use them to help others as well as myself.
Honestly I need to reread this book as well, as the lessons feel a little vague for me right now, but it’s been reread by me several times to date and is a great lesson in how having some identified purpose can help you make your way through almost any issue that presents itself to you.
The Obstacle is the Way
The author of the Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday, was an apprentice to Robert Greene, and even helped Robert research and prepare a few of his books in the past. Ryan is a student of stoicism and likes to take the lessons he’s learned from studying it and repackage those lessons into books, blogs, and podcasts to help pass along the wisdom of the ancients with a more modern lens.
This book, The Obstacle is the Way, has been in my virtual library for several years now and was my introduction to the concept of stoicism. It tells several stories of notable people throughout history, ancient and modern, who have had issues they needed to overcome to find their way towards living the lives that made them become individuals of note.
There are a lot of parallels between this book and Man’s Search for Meaning, and I believe this book mentions Viktor Frankl a few times as well.
The Four Hour Workweek
Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Workweek has been around for about a decade now, and a bit of it unfortunately is out of date, the tech discussed in a few places. But otherwise this book has a lot of evergreen knowledge contained within it’s pages. Different ways of thinking about life and business. Ideas on how to run a business in a way that provides you the freedom to do what you want with your life rather than playing by the arbitrary rules society thrusts upon you.
I became interested in this book all those years ago because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to build an online business selling shirts and travel the world and this book was the blueprint for that. I never ended up traveling the world and because of many missteps on my part didn’t do the best job of implementing the lessons of this book to free myself from the path most of us find ourselves on, working as an employee whose expected to show up, clock in, and be there all day regardless of that being an effective way of operating the business.
But having read it and then reflecting on it when I did invariably find myself working for soulless businesses I had place being involved in I would remember lessons from the book that could have made things better, if only I had the ability to implement them. I would like to reread this book soon as well, and take the timeless aspects of it like testing assumptions and delegating tasks I’m forcing myself to learn but do not enjoy doing to those who actually do so as to free myself to focus where I do want to spend my time.
For now, that’s all
There are many more books I’ve read over the years that I have enjoyed and found useful tips and strategies in that ought to be mentioned at some point, but these ones come to mind easily and therefore made the list first. It’s interesting attempting to write blurbs about them and realizing which I remember better than others and which I need to revisit.
If you read any of these I hope your find something helpful to aid you along your path. They’ve played a large role in me becoming the person I am today and I reread them (or listen to them) frequently as I find myself needing to remember a lesson I’ve forgotten.
Reading is a great pastime! The only one on this list that I’ve read any of is Man’s Search for Meaning, which I actually never finished. I should go back to that, for sure. Some of these other ones sound cool too, though! Thanks for sharing